by Susan Dermond
Parents love their children and want to give them everything they need to become happy, fulfilled adults. In my thirty-six years of working with parents, I have known many who go to extraordinary lengths to nurture their children.
Perhaps you are one of them. You drive them to lessons, enroll them in camps, and get them to all the practices and games for sports teams. I know parents who do all of this plus take their children camping, to science museums, to Scouts, and to temple, synagogue, or Sunday schools. Many of these children are full of confidence, competence, and joy, but many more of them are stressed out. The least disappointment or unfulfilled desire sends them in a tailspin and they pout, cry, or whine. They get bored easily. Their voices are often high-pitched and anxious, rather than relaxed.
These children need the one thing their loving parents have not given them. They need SILENCE.
In order to have any time at all for her own thoughts, to get in touch with her own feelings, to imagine, to create, a child needs to have quiet times. The inner self needs silence and solitude to develop.
Most religions teach us the necessity of being alone in silence as part of their mystical tradition. In Judaism, this tradition is called hitbodedut, a form of prayer in solitude which leads to self-transcendence. In yoga it is called pratyahara, the interiorization of the mind. Saint Teresa of Avila calls it the Prayer of Quiet, a state in which the soul experiences a quiet, deep and peaceful happiness of the will, without being able to decide precisely what it is, although it can clearly see how it differs from the happiness of the world.”
At the end of a week-long class on Education for Life [TM] I asked the parents to come to the last class with one idea of how they would put these ideas about nurturing the whole child into practice.
One couple had an overactive little daughter. The dad stood up and shared that they realized their child had no quiet time in her life. The parents meditated–before she got up in the morning. They had quiet time after she went to bed. But they now were seeing that their daughter had little peace in her life. All of her waking hours she was either at nursery school or at home with TV or radios on and her parents busily cooking, cleaning, and talking on the phone.
They decided to have silence (or relative silence) on Saturday mornings. They would leave off the music, the news, the entertainment. They would turn the phone OFF, and they would not even talk with each other any more than absolutely necessary. Their interactions with their daughter would include quiet play, concentration games, and conversation. They would give her creative materials and let her draw, cut out, glue, and color.
What a wonderful change in this little girl’s life. If she had this sort of environment every night of the week, she would be a calmer, more relaxed child. For these parents, withdrawing from their busyness even once a week with their daughter would open a door for this child.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy and effort on the part of parents to provide their children with a quiet, peaceful environment in which to develop. It goes against the predominant trend of mainstream society. Yet, not to do so runs the risk of children becoming teenagers who don’t know themselves or what brings them real happiness.
Susan Dermond founded the Living Wisdom School in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of Calm and Compassionate Children. She writes and speaks about spiritual education and teaches yoga.
Dermond, Susan. 2002. Raising Your Child With Spirit: Eloquence in Silence. Tikkun 17(1): 80.